Greetings from da Burgh, where reporters are stirring up shit!
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Goes Out on Byline Strike!
This week’s Payday goes out to our 110 reporters at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, members of the Pittsburgh NewsGuild, who are currently engaged in a byline strike. The union has also filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the Post-Gazette’s owner, Toledo-based Block Communications, has unilaterally imposed health care costs on the union outside of the scope of collective bargaining.
The reporters are refusing to allow the paper to run their names next to their articles in protest of management’s concessionary bargaining on wages, health care, and job security language, which would enable the paper to employ unlimited freelancers
The final blow came after reporters objected to a controversial op-ed published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by the paper’s owner defending Trump’s comments about the U.S. not wanting immigrants from “shithole countries”.
(For more on the labor struggle at the Post-Gazette, read our paisan Stephen Caruso’s piece in the Pittsburgh City Paper.)
If you aren’t following Pittsburgh NewsGuild Prez @MichaelaFouco, do so now. The struggle at Post-Gazette will likely determine how race and immigration are covered in #PA18. Solidarity to our newsroom comrades from a traveling veteran of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild. Looking forward to being home for this fight! #1u
Donate: Payday Getting Called into Cover Byline Strike
With the Pittsburgh NewsGuild out on byline strike, Payday intends to do everything within its power to cover it.
Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk was inspired to go into labor journalism by a childhood mentor, the great African American columnist Tony Norman.
Currently, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette lacks a full-time labor reporter so Payday is willing to pitch for the team in the spirit of true Mon Valley sandlot ballclubs.
“I talked to Tony Norman this morning and he told me I needed to get out there and show some of these young labor reporters how it’s done,” said the Woodland Hills alum known by his friends as “Melk.” “I tell you, getting a call to get in the ballgame from a NewsGuild brother like Tony…this is gonna be a hell of a game.”
“If the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks it’s gonna bust the union, we’ll show them how we pitch ball games down in the hills of Eastern Tennessee,” said Elk. “Hell, the Block Family ought to save us all some time and concede.”
So y’all, Payday raised $1,954 this month despite Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk suffering from a respiratory infection. And we already have Warner Brothers on the defensive about their use of French prison labor in the film “Dunkirk”.
Newsrooms are 84% White While U.S. Is Only 63% White
This week’s coverage of the Democrats’ decision to abandon their demand for DACA as a condition of reopening the federal government was largely done by white reporters.
A recent study by the American Society of News Editors shows that newsroom are an astonishing 84% white while the American Popular as a whole is only 63% white. Only 16.6% of reporters at daily newspapers are people of color, while 24% of the reporters in digital only newsrooms are people of color.
Many blame the lack of diversity on the “good old boy culture” that persists in many newsrooms. With newsroom positions being some of the most sought-after in the writing industry, tight cliques within many newsrooms tend to give jobs only to their close friends, thereby disadvantaging reporters of color.
ICE Targets Immigration Activists
As white journalists like Vox Founder Ezra Klein defend the decision of Democrats to abandon the use of shutdown threats as leverage to force the Trump Administration to make concessions, the government appears to be taking action to target immigration activists.
A blockbuster expose by NewsGuild members Maria Sacchetti and Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reveals that ICE appears to be targeting immigration activists for deportation:
Maru Mora Villalpando, a Mexican national in Washington state, said she has no criminal record and is proof that ICE is targeting activists.
“This latest tactic is something we might expect from generals in a tin-pot dictatorship, not federal officers in a 240-year-old democracy,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, the largest network of immigrant-rights organizations in the United States. “Arresting immigrant activists who speak up is meant to sow fear in immigrant communities and stop political protest.”
ICE mailed her a letter in December saying she may be deported. She has lived in the United States for 22 years and had met with federal officials during the Obama administration when she helped publicize detainees’ hunger strikes and other protests in Washington state.
“There’s no way for them to know about me except for the work that I do,” she said. “I think my case makes it clear that actually Ravi and Jean’s case were politically motivated.”
(Also, check out the Writer’s Guild represented Splinter for more on Amazon owner Jeff Bezos attempts to bust the union at the Washington Post.)
Payday Raised $1,954 Dollars So Far in January
Folks, despite Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk being sick for part of the month, Payday has been on a fundraising tear so far.
We have raised $1,954 dollars so far this month from 72 different readers.
Florida Prison Labor Journalists Faces Charges of Inciting a Riot
Last year, Florida saw a record number of prison inmate deaths, 428, up nearly 20% over the previous year.
Now, as part of an ongoing effort to organize prison workers nationwide, inmates in Florida are organizing strikes as part of Operation PUSH, which began in Florida on January 15th.
Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, one of the labor journalists covering Operation PUSH, is an inmate himself. Now, Johnson has been charged by prison officials with attempting to incite a riot for publishing writing calling on other inmates to strike.
“It is only a piece of journalism, which is a constitutionally protected exercise of speech and press” Johnson told the website Shadowproof. “[Florida] prisoners have no internet access, so how is something published online inciting prisoners?”
Prison labor advocates are asking supporters to contact the Florida State Prison to ask that the charges be dropped. For more information go to the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons.
West Virginia Teachers May Go On Strike
In West Virginia, teachers union leaders, who lack collective bargaining rights under state law, are calling for a possible strike to improve pay conditions.
Declaring that teachers, school service personnel and public employees are fed up with low pay and ever-increasing health insurance costs, American Federation of Teachers of West Virginia President Christine Campbell broached the word “strike” at a rally for public employees Wednesday.
“It’s not something any of us take lightly,” she said of the potential for the first state teachers strike since 1990.
“If our efforts appear futile, we are prepared to take additional steps,” she said. “We don’t want to strike. Nobody does.”
Afterward, Campbell said talk of striking if the Legislature fails to act this session to improve teacher pay has come from the local level, not from AFT leadership.
“They’ve reached out and said, ‘We have to do something,’ ” she said.
Study: “Right-to-Work” Decrease Democratic Voter Share by 3.5%
Last year, the state of West Virginia became the 5th state to go “right-to-work” since 2011.
In a new study that will soon be released as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, James Feigenbaum of Boston University, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia, and Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution shows that when states go “right-to-work” that the resulting decrease in union power directly correlates into a 3.5% decrease in Democratic voter performance.
GOP Candidate in #PA18 Was a Torture Consultant at Abu Ghraib
The #PA18 Special Election Could Have Huge Impact on Stopping the GOP Push for “Right-to-Work” Pennsylvania. (See Payday’s longform on how labor’s legacy is likely to play in the special election).
A new revelation that GOP Candidate Rick Saccone worked as private contractor as a torture consultant at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq could throw a monkey wrench in the race.
Our buddy Lee Fang at the Writers’ Guild-represented The Intercept has the story:
Saccone draws on his own personal experience to argue broadly for expanded use of techniques criticized as torture. The examples from his time in Iraq include telling a suspect that, unless he confesses, he will be turned over to a militia that will execute him. In another, Saccone writes about a hardened suspect that expressed fear when he saw a large German police dog, so Saccone made the suspect believe he would release the dog to attack the suspect unless he provided information. And in another, Saccone discusses using live wires to threaten a detainee with electrocution.
“The threats of electrocution, of attacks by dogs, recommended by Saccone are also clearly illegal under the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits both physical and mental suffering,” says Gordon. “Indeed,” she adds, “torture’s mental suffering may well have the most enduring effects on its victims — as evidenced by a remarkable series of interviews with Guantánamo survivors.”
Paul Ryan Super PAC Drops $1.5 Million in #PA18 Election
While Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hasn’t held a town hall meeting in his own district in nearly three years, he seems to be paying a lot of attention to Southwestern PA.
His Super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has opened two offices and hired 50 door-to-door canvassers for the #PA18 Election. Now, he plans to drop $1.5 million on TV ads in an effort to define Democrat Conor Lamb as a proponent of Nancy Pelosi’s “liberal agenda.”
“We will attack Conor Lamb, we will define Conor Lamb,” Corry Bliss told the Washington Post. “And we will explain to voters in Pennsylvania 18th district that Conor Lamb would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda.”
Payday Mourns Hugh Masekela
This week, Payday mourns the death of jazz musician and South African freedom fighter Hugh Masekela.
NPR has an incredible 15 track playlist spanning Masekela’s 60 year career from be-bop to funk to house music.
Weekend Reads & Listens
— Start your weekend right and take 13 minutes to watch this incredible George Clinton and the P-Funk All Star Tiny Desk Concert.
— Last year, African Americans organized for more inclusion in the Oscars with the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. Now, the New York Times reports that Latinos are mobilizing to be better represented in the Oscars:
Latinos make up 18 percent of the population in the United States and 23 percent of frequent moviegoers — those who go to the movies at least once a month. But only about 3 percent of speaking characters in films during the last decade were Latino, according to a study released in July by Stacy L. Smith, an associate professor at the University of Southern California. (Ms. Smith’s team found that 13.6 percent of speaking characters were black, while African-Americans make up 13.3 percent of the population. For Asians, the shares matched: 5.7 percent.)
The last Hispanic actor to win an Oscar was Penélope Cruz, from Spain, who was honored nine years ago for her supporting role in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” The last time the Academy Awards had a Hispanic acting nominee was 2012, when Demián Bichir was given a nod for his portrayal of an undocumented Los Angeles gardener in “A Better Life” and the Argentina-born French actress Bérénice Bejo was nominated for playing a dancer in “The Artist.”
Only one Hispanic man has ever won the best actor Oscar — José Ferrer, for “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1951 — and no Hispanic woman has ever been named best actress.
None of that will change this year. When nominations for the 90th Academy Awards are announced on Tuesday morning, almost all of the acting nominees are again expected to be white. The Vietnamese-American actress Hong Chau, who has a supporting role as a brusque refugee in “Downsizing,” could get a nod. Among black actors, Daniel Kaluuya, the “Get Out” star, and Mary J. Blige, who plays a hardened homemaker in “Mudbound,” could also snare nominations.
But it is almost certain that there will be no Hispanic acting nominees. None are even seen as being in the running, according to Gold Derby, a predictions site.
“We’re stuck,” Mr. Nogales said. “When will our exclusion matter?”
— Little Cambodia is a self-sufficient 1,300-person community of Cambodians that sells specialized Cambodian vegetables to Whole Foods and others and is largely cut off from the surrounding Greater Houston region.
Devastated by Hurricane Harvey, their self-sufficient Cambodian community attracted the assistance of a number of nearby gun-toting, confederate flag, far-right groups.
At first, the groups welcomed the charity of the far-right groups, but over time, many in the community felt the groups were trying to take over. Texas Observer has a gem of a post-Cambodian War story:
Keeping that dream alive meant keeping Little Cambodia free from the interference of relief agencies, which the Patriots feared would rob the Cambodian Americans of their independence. “When the group came in here, they asked people to stick with them, that they’re going to rebuild the community,” said Paul Boeur, one of the community’s elders, a group of older residents who help run the temple and adjudicate disputes. “So if any outside organizations come, just refuse them. Don’t let them come help.”
But word of the community’s plight had gotten out on social media, and that weekend a large number of volunteers from Houston drove to Little Cambodia to help out. Many were dismayed to find the community filled with militant-looking men in camo. Volunteer Sarah Ville overheard one of the Confederate Riders instructing people not to accept outside help. William Roberts, the owner of a Houston construction company, was told to drop off his donations at the temple, where he encountered Marion at the command post. “He came up and was like, ‘Who are you? Do you work for the government?’” Roberts recently recalled. “I said, ‘No, I’m donating supplies and want to know what the hell is going on down here.’”
As they talked, Roberts noticed a crowd of men gathering around him, many with large knives on their belts and guns tucked under their shirts. “There was a bulge in the small of their backs,” he told me. “You could tell they were carrying.” (Marion said that he and his men usually left their weapons at the Alvin warehouse when they came to Little Cambodia.)
According to Roberts, Marion said that all donations must go through him. “These guys had basically taken over the community,” Roberts said. “They were brainwashing everybody so that everything would run through them.”